Recently, I've had a number of clients with plantar fasciitis, a common but painful condition which affects the foot. The pain and discomfort makes it very difficult to walk properly, and swelling may occur in the ligaments of the foot.
You may experience swelling and tender areas in the heel to the ball of the foot. This will be worse as you get out of bed, and take your first step of the day, and may make it difficult to walk normally for a short period, or might also be a problem later in the day. Periods of inactivity or sudden exercise will also produce the same pain.
The condition is more common than you might think, with 1 in 10 people developing plantar fasciitis at some point in their lives. It can occur at any age, is twice as common in women than men, and frequently found in runners.
There are several possible causes for this condition, which include:
Pronation of the foot: walking on the inside or outside of your foot in an abnormal way can lead to plantar fasciitis.
Flat feet: The strip of ligament that runs from your heel to your toes is overworked by the flat foot.
Highly arched feet: again, adding pressure and overworking the ligaments.
Tight muscles in the Achilles, calf, or lower back: can cause abnormal pressure through the legs and feet, straining the ligaments.
Injury: from playing sports such as football, trips, falls and so on.
Visiting a podiatrist is a good idea to see if you need support in your shoes. They will test for pronation, flat feet and high arches and fit insoles into your shoes to correct the rolling if required. Often, they will also provide compression and stretching exercises to help you manage the pain.
You may also want to see a reflexologist as a natural and alternative way to help relieve your systems and facilitate your recovery. In a reflexology treatment, I would manipulate to the foot so as to release muscle tension, foot tension, swelling and the adhesions that form when inflammation is present. This allows for greater movement and improved circulation. I will also work other body systems to ease the condition and promote healing. Like most injuries, there is no instant cure, but regular Reflexology sessions can support healing, pain relief and keep the foot flexible.
There are also a number of things you can try at home. The ideal stretch to ease your plantar fasciitis is the basic calf stretch:
Face a wall and place your hands on it at about shoulder height.
Stretch one leg behind you, heel to the ground. Find a position that gives you a nice stretch in the calf of the back leg. You might need to lower your hands a bit, or change your distance from the wall.
Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Then pull your back leg forward a bit, bend your knee, and sink your weight onto that leg. This should move the stretch from your upper calf to down around your Achilles' tendon. Again, hold for at least 30-60 seconds.
Repeat the whole process with the other leg.
And then run through the whole routine again on each leg. Do it a third time if you're feeling really motivated.
Repeat three times a day.
The trick here is consistency and duration. If it seems like it's not working, keep practicing as it does take time to stretch tight ligaments. Give it at least a few weeks to start working.
You can also try …
Basically, anything that warms and/or loosens your muscles can help. Experiment and see what works for you.
1. Stretch the bottoms of your feet.
Kneel on the ground and tuck your toes so the bottoms are pressed against the floor and settle your weight back onto your heels. Depending on how flexible your feet are, this will cause some pain that can range from intense to excruciating, but it's really good for your feet if you can manage a few moments everyday.
2. Use a foam roller or tennis ball to release tight muscles.
Sit on the ground, place a foam roller or tennis ball under your foot and/or calf, and roll it around with your leg. If it hurts, you've hit a tight spot—keep it at that location for as long as you can stand it.
3. Soak your feet (and as much of your leg as you can) in hot water. This is self-explanatory; heat relaxes muscles. Try adding some Epsom salts if you want to detox and soften the feet or try soaking in a hot bath before bed.
4. Use a heat pad on your calves.
Again, heat leads to looser muscles. It's nicer and more fun it you can get someone else to massage your calves afterward, but you can do it yourself too. Just remember: When you find a spot that hurts, that's the place you need to be focusing on.
5. Get a massage.
You can do some good by self-massaging using the tennis ball or foam roller technique, but to help the muscles truly relax and to work out some of the knots on the calf, get a professional massage, often therapists will work just the leg and calf area for you.
You know the song about how all the bones are connected: "the thigh bone connected to the backbone / the backbone connected to the neck bone"? Well, the same is true of your muscles. If your neck is stiff and your back is achy, guess what? Your legs will probably be tight, too. A good massage can help address all that, especially if you can afford it regularly.
6. Take a yoga class.
Yoga makes you stretchy, and stretchy is good.
7. See a reflexologist. Depending on where you live, it might be hard to find a good reflexologist. But if you find a good one, it's worth every penny. Find a reflexologist that understands your condition and will work the muscles you need to relieve pain and increase flexibility. Sometimes, working a little deeper may be more painful during the treatment session, but will yield better results for you.